STILLWATER — If you’re looking for more bang for your buck in the landscape, consider the jujube, also known as Chinese Date. Not only is it a fantastic small tree with attractive foliage and branching structure, it also offers edible fruits. And, as an added bonus, jujube has no serious insect or disease problems.
Jujube originated in China, where they’ve been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. There are more than 400 cultivars available, and they grow well in the southwestern United States, thanks to the tree’s love for full sun. “Li” and “Lang” are two of the more common varieties available which grow well throughout Oklahoma. This tree has a lot of visual interest with its drooping branches growing in a zig-zag pattern. This fast-growing tree grows from 15 to 30 feet high, with a canopy about that same size. While mature plants have some tolerance for drought, they perform best with regular and consistent water.
When choosing a site for jujube in your landscape, select a place with well-drained soil. While it tolerates high temperature extremes, it also withstands temperatures as low as -28 degrees Fahrenheit during winter dormancy.
The leaves of the jujube are glossy green with finely toothed margins. In the fall, the leaves turn yellow. During the late spring and summer months, the tree features white to yellowish-green fragrant flowers.
However, individual flowers are receptive to pollen for only one day or less. Pollination needs of the jujube are not clearly defined but appear to be done by ants or other insects and possibly by the wind. Most jujube cultivars produce fruit without cross-pollination. The jujube is well protected from late spring frosts by delayed budding until all chance of cold weather has passed.
The fruit from the tree ranges in size from cherry to plum, with a single stone within. The stone contains two seeds. When maturing from green to red, each smooth-skinned fruit has a sweet, crisp flesh, similar to an apple. After maturing to red/reddish brown, the fruits wrinkle and take on the appearance and taste of a date. This fruit can be eaten fresh, or it may be dried, candied or canned.
The jujube is great for just about any size landscape, so if you’re looking for a landscape addition that not only looks good but also has tasty fruit, give this one consideration.
David Hillock is a consumer horticulturist with Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension.